How this non-profit uses technology to engage with governments and youth to end homelessness.
Founded by Cyndi Lauper, Lisa Barbaris, Jonny Podell, and Gregory Lewis, True Colors United is an organization focused on solutions to youth homelessness that zero in on the unique experiences of LGBTQ youth and youth of color following the “targeted universalism” philosophy. “Basically this idea that if we take solutions to some of our most pressing problems and we make them work for the people who are most impacted then they’ll also work for everyone else — that’s our theory of change,” explains Dylan Francis Waguespack, public policy and external affairs director at True Colors United.
To find and execute solutions, TCU works with shelters, housing programs, local governments and agencies, communities, as well as directly with young people who have experienced homelessness to engage them in solving these problems. The organization makes an emphasis on making sure that young people are part of the solution.
Waguespack leads TCU’s small but mighty advocacy team, which includes the communications officer. They work with all the different divisions of the organization to bring together that direct and on-the-ground knowledge to build a public policy strategy that can get across the issues that young people are prioritizing.
“I like to think of young people we work with as my client,” he says. “When you’re 19 and you have very little control over what’s happening in your life, being heard is really important, and being seen is really important.”
Waguespack has been using VoterVoice for over a year to mobilize TCU’s advocates and get support for its initiatives with great results, including the more than 66,000 comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the organization’s latest campaign.
“The contacts that we get from those actions [in VoterVoice] are super high quality; they just engage over and over again so we’re able to really build our list that way,” he says. “When people take that first step of saying ‘I’m going to actually do something,’ they’re just more likely to stick with you for the long haul.”
Housing Saves Lives Campaign
In the fall of 2020, TCU launched its “Housing Saves Lives” campaign to reject HUD’s proposed rule that would roll back a lot of the protections that exist since 2016 for transgender and gender non-conforming people in accessing homelessness services.
Since this campaign was so important to the core of TCU’s mission, Waguespack knew it needed large support. He worked to build a coalition and leveraged VoterVoice to quickly create an action center that was not specific to any of the organizations involved and they could all use.
”“We wanted to make this whole campaign accessible for folks on the super-local level all the way up to the national level where we are.”Dylan Francis Waguespack, Public Policy and External Affairs Director, True Colors United
“That’s the best way we can keep track of the metrics and know how many people are participating in the campaign if it’s all grouped together rather than everyone having their own splash page on their website for this campaign. Not to mention, we certainly had organizations participating that wouldn’t have the right software,” he says. “We wanted to make this whole campaign accessible for folks on the super-local level all the way up to the national level where we are.”
Using VoterVoice to power the action center, TCU was able to seamlessly drive all of the opposition public comments into HUD. “It was fantastic,” Waguespack says. “It all came together and was the glue for the campaign.”
In total, the Housing Saves Lives campaign generated more than 66,000 public comments to HUD resulting in a massive victory for TCU and the coalition, effectively stopping the rule change.
Empowering Youth with Technology
True Colors United supports the National Youth Forum on Homelessness, which is a group of 25 youth and young adults with lived experience of homelessness coming together to shape solutions to homelessness as a whole, not just youth homelessness.
”“VoterVoice allows us to create a custom action platform that allows people to send a message to their member of Congress and walk away with a sense of, ‘okay, I'm involved in this.’”Dylan Francis Waguespack, Public Policy and External Affairs Director, True Colors United
“It’s not a national forum on youth homelessness, it’s all of homelessness,” Waguespack says. “They’re out here crafting solutions to the problems that we work on that are youth-led.”
Part of the support TCU provides to NYFH is in helping them set up a platform that can encourage others to become involved with their efforts, making it as easy as possible for supporters to take action and effect change. True Colors United trusts VoterVoice as its digital advocacy platform of choice.
“We wanted to create an experience for people that is engaging,” he says. “VoterVoice comes in really nicely there because it allows us to create a custom action platform that allows people to send a message to their member of Congress and walk away with a sense of, ‘okay, I’m involved in this.’”
Building a Robust, Future-Proof Advocacy Strategy with VoterVoice
FiscalNote’s flagship advocacy suite, VoterVoice, is at the center of True Colors United’s advocacy strategy. From keeping supporters and stakeholders informed about the organization’s efforts and important updates on its issues, to firing up its base and mobilizing them to further its core mission, VoterVoice is there every step of the way.
“We see it as really important to engage people, not just when we need to mobilize them to take action, but for a long time before that as well,” Waguespack says. “One of the really great things about using VoterVoice is that the contacts we collect there are really high quality. That’s in part because of the nature of who signs up to do an action but it’s also because we fold them into our bigger audience and make sure that we’re engaging them in the good times too … We find that when we do that and then have to ask them to do something it just makes them so much more likely to do it.”